Stories From the Front

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Lisa
from Washington State writes:

My son in
law in Iraq said they are being pressured round the clock to re-enlist
or face stop loss. They are being offered $30,000 signing bonus,
tax free and told if they don’t re-enlist, they are going to be
stop-lossed and get zero dollars. They are pushing the troops
round the clock and Mark only got 3 hours sleep in 48 hours and
when they get back, they are faced yet again with re-enlisting.
Mark said many guys are scared and signing up and their families
at home are very upset. (with good reason) We really need to push
our media and congressmen to expose the horrible way our troops
are being treated.

Lietta,
also from Washington State writes:

Yes, I have
been trying since January 05 to get the word out regarding my
own 2 loved ones and the soldiers in their division. Both served
in Iraq, and their division, 1st Armored, was the first to be
‘extended’ so they served 15 months in Iraq, April 03–July
04. They came back to their bases in August 04. A mere 5 months
later
, Jan 05, their division was told they were under orders
to redeploy to Iraq and Stop Lossed and would redeploy
in Fall 05. And I have been trying to call attention to the ‘Retention’
practices ever since.

March 05,
it was time for both to make decision to re-enlist. As already
under orders to redeploy; as already under Stop Loss; their choices
= 1) don’t re-enlist but you will wind up in Iraq anyway under
Stop Loss or 2) re-enlist and while you’ll still wind up in Iraq
under Stop Loss, at least you’ll have the attractive bonus being
offered.

The point
is that the ‘Retention’ rate that is being touted as demonstrative
of soldier’s fervor and good faith in the war is another deception
being foisted on the media and public.
Closer to the truth
of the situation is that one they are in, they cannot get out
and it is entrapment
from the front end with deceptive recruitment
practices, again at re-enlistment time with the threat of deployment
to Iraq under Stop Loss, again when contract ends and they are
kept in and deployed via Stop Loss. What continues to be called
an ‘all voluntary military’ has become an ‘involuntary’ military
through the use strategies of deception and legal maneuvering
for which there seems to be no remedy in the Stop Loss.

Tia
from Baltimore writes (her stepson was KIA in Iraq):

But I will
never forget one thing: the day we dropped David off for boot
camp – the day his father and I first met the recruiter – the
recruiter put out his hand, smiled at me, shook my hand and said
“you’ll never have to worry about him again.” I was shocked. I
can only speculate what this person was telling David.

These
are not isolated stories from the illegal occupation but they are
illustrative of what is happening to our young people who thought
they were doing the right and honorable thing by enlisting in the
military. This is an immoral war that our troops never should have
been sent to in the first place, and once they are there and have
done their time, it is very difficult for them to get out of the
distant mental desert and come home to their loved ones.

Not
only are the backend policies of retention shady, but the front-end
policies of recruiting our vulnerable youth are often downright
unethical. Few citizens in our country (I know I didn't) realize
that an enlistment contract is only binding on the recruit. Once
the recruit raises his/her right hand and swears allegiance to the
government, that recruit becomes the property of Uncle Sam and is
bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ethics, promises,
and moral correctness often fly out the window as servitude, hardship,
and heartache fly in.

The
only recruiting story I know by heart, and can effectively comment
on, is my son Casey's. I have heard too many similar stories, however.
When he was recruited in May 2000, he was promised the moon to get
him to join, and he ultimately got an early grave. He was promised
a $20,000 signing bonus: he received $4500 and was told that he
could use the rest for college. Casey wanted to be a deacon in the
Catholic Church, so when he enlisted in the Army, he was promised
he could be a Chaplain's Assistant: don't believe the Army Band
stories, either. When he got to boot camp, he was told that his
promised specialty wasn't open, and he had the choice of being a
Humvee mechanic or a cook. His recruiter told him he could finish
college while in the military, he could never even get approval
to take one class. All of these broken promises mean nothing to
me. One does, however. After Casey enlisted he knew I was upset.
He told me, "Mom, you don't have to worry, Sgt. (I forget his
name) told me that since I scored so high on the ASVAB (military
competency) test, I will never see combat, even if there is a war.
I will only be in a support role." I can still hear his voice
saying those exact words to me. Those words chilled me to the bone
then, and have haunted me since 9/11. First of all, because I thought
Casey would be sent to fight terrorists (and “terrorists”) wherever
they might be, and I could see George and his warmongering band
of neocons rushing us into a crazy invasion of Iraq. My premonition
came true and Casey was KIA 04/04/04: a mere 5 days after his unit
arrived in Sadr City, Baghdad: IN COMBAT. The most troubling thing
is, though, that some recruiters are still promising young people
that they won't have to go to Iraq if they sign up. I am being told
that all the time by young people who talk to the multi-level marketers
working towards their bonuses…oops, I mean military recruiters.

As
long as our young people are being lied to and used so dishonorably
in an unjust invasion and occupation of another country; as long
as they are fighting for a corrupt government and still without
the proper equipment, food, training, or leadership; as long as
moms are having to hold bake sales to buy their sons body armor;
as long as our soldiers are being held against their wills long
after they have done their duty; as long as they are being sent
to kill innocent people; military service should be opposed. Let's
affirm life in the fullest for everybody: the unfortunate, uncounted
people living Iraq who are "acceptable" collateral damage
to the war hawks, and our own indispensable loved ones. The only
way to support our troops is to bring them home from this mess – now.

The
American public and Congress need to hear more stories from the
front. The tragedy and atrocities of this occupation need to be
in the forefront of every American's mind, so there can be an uprising
of peace. If you have a story similar to the ones I have told, please
forward them to me. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh) would like to put
these stories, now engraved only in our hearts, into the Congressional
Record. Thank you.

July
13, 2005

Cindy
Sheehan [send her mail] is
the mother of Spc.
Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04
She is co-founder of Gold
Star Families for Peace
. She is the author of Not
One More Mother’s Child
and Dear
President Bush
.

Cindy
Sheehan Archives

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